I am going to try a new project this year with my high school students. I am going to have them create a scale model of the solar system in proportion to the length of our math hallway. I may have them make models to hang from the ceiling or create 2-dimensional images. I was wondering if anyone has tried this project and if there were any suggestions from your own experiences with this or similar projects. Thanks.
This is a great project for integrating math and science. I did it with advanced 6th graders. We used spreadsheet to work out the scaled distances and sizes. Because of the vast distances relative to the sizes of the Sun and planets, it's difficult to create a model that is to scale for both size and distance. There is a book you'd find useful:
A wonderful science museum in Vermont has an exhibit that shows everything to scale. It's astounding!
The project is worth doing if you consider both distance and size and make decisions about what to do.
Have you seen Powers of 10? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0fKBhvDjuy0
It was 2-D (if I remember correctly) and ran the length of the longest hallway in our school. We measured the hallway, detemined the scale factor based on the avg distance from the Sun to Pluto (then the farthest planet, but now demoted), and built the system on that scale. Students were assigned their own planets; they researched them, scaled them, created a representation, adding visual detail and a blurb about it that hung on the wall next to where the planet was suspended from the ceiling. The Sun was so large that we could only fit 1/4 of it on the end wall.
I hope this helps. It was a long time ago.
I wonder how much that model would have changed without including Pluto. The distance from Neptune to Pluto seems to take up about 25% of the model according to http://www.exploratorium.edu/ronh/solar_system/
One of my fourth-grade classes tried to come up with a way of showing the various sizes. It was not easy. We then used string to demonstrate the distances of the planets from the sun. It took the the large school courtyard. I wish I'd had the info provided by this website at that time: http://www.exploratorium.edu/ronh/solar_system/
I will have my sixth-grade class try it next Spring. Let me know what you decide to do.
This sounds like a great activity! While we at Illuminations don't have a lesson that directly relates, we do have several lessons that could inspire another lesson or help with aspects of this one. I'll list them below in case you find them helpful!
We can't wait to hear how your lesson shapes up!
I'm not sure about the accuracy, but the visual concept that I found most helpful was an orange sitting in the middle of the Rose Bowl. Large numbers are hard for us to picture, but it helps to have students calculate with proportions and made-up units, like the number of dollar bills to reach to the moon, or a trillion dollars is the wealth of 1000 billionaires
I did something like this a few years ago. I can't remember what we used to determine our scale factor (I think just the size of my room so it would fit), but I had the students use wodden beads for the planets (the sizes of the planets were not true to scale, unfortunately, but they had some choice in size and color), and then pieces of string to tie each planet individually extending out from the sun. This makes it a little more realistic in that the planets are never really in a straight line. The largest problem with this was getting the strings tangled as the distances got longer and longer. I had them wrap some of the long pieces around a strip of cardboard until we were ready to pin them to the ceiling.
Thanks for reminding me of this - and all the great links! I might try it again this year!
Here is a huge list of resources: http://www.vendian.org/mncharity/dir3/solarsystem/
I was doing some early calculations. It looks like if I scale the solar system to my hallway, the sun is only going to be 11mm, Jupiter would be 1mm and Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars are almost nonexistent. Which is doable but not very visually appealing.
What if we only modeled the inner planets? If we only went out to Mars the Sun would be 210mm, Mercury .7mm, Venus 1.8mm, Earth 1.9mm, Mars 1mm. We could then estimate how far up the street the other planets would be.
I will leave it up to the students, but I'd like to have a few options in mind.
I also did this project with 6th graders. It is a project in the Everyday Math program for the 6th. We did 3D for the size.
You need a different scale for size and distance from the Sun.
Another year we did it with chalk in the driveway. The students loved it. Each group had a different planet to make and then know where to place. It involved ratio and powers of 10. We also used a spreedsheet to put it all together.